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How To Make Kids Listen Openly and Peacefully

How To Make Kids Listen

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Here are some helpful tips to make your kids listen peacefully without a struggle. 

We as parents have all been there, told our child to do something and had to repeat it. Ask. Repeat. Ask. Repeat. Most likely by then, the frustration has set in for us, and possibly even them. Why are they not listening to us the first time? Why does it sometimes have to escalate to anything beyond the simple, please do this chore, the child completes the task, and thank you? With two boys, ages 16 and 11, I’ve learned over the years how to get them to effectively listen at least 90% of the time. The other 10% is something I’ve accepted and have learned to just let go of as we are human beings and deserve a little bit of grace every now and then. We are all works in progress.

Set an example and be a good listener yourself

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? We often take on the role of authority with our children and think that when we ask them to do something, they should just do it, no questions asked, no grumbling, no arguments, just complete the task. What we sometimes miss in all of the asking is the listening part. Sometimes they’re in the middle of playing a game they really enjoy and need just a little more time to finish the game before they actively do the chore. If my son effectively communicates to me that he is in the middle of something and that he’ll do the chore immediately after, then I’m fine with that. He has respectfully communicated to me that and I need to respect and understand that.

Listening is power

Trust me when I say, listening to children empowers them. It gives them power and they learn respectful ways in which they can express their emotions. Also, good listeners tend to have more of a long-term social advantage, being able to make more friends, simply because they’re good listeners.

Passive vs. Active listening

Passive listening is listening without a reaction, allowing someone to speak without interrupting. Not necessarily doing something else at the same time as you’re listening, yet not really fully paying attention to what’s being said, also non-reactive. The listener hears the words and what the other person has to say, but they lack full understanding of what the person is trying to convey.

Active listening is responding in a manner that demonstrates you understand what the other person is trying to tell you about his or her feelings and experience. Instead of giving someone a fraction of your attention, active listening is making an uninterrupted, conscious effort to listen, hear, understand and retain the information that is being told to you. It is beyond just listening to the words they’re saying.

Children are more likely to listen when there is mutual respect.

Kids are more likely to listen when respect is shown reciprocally.  This creates open communication and in the process of children feeling comfortable to speak, they’re able to understand their own feelings. It helps build their own self-esteem and therefore creates positive and effective social skills. They won’t respect you if you don’t respect them.

Eye contact. Proximity is important when asking a child to do something. Yelling from another room what they need to do, not even knowing if they’re engaged in something at the time, they’re less likely to listen and really hear what you would like them to do. Respectfully ask for them to look at you, put down their phone or stop what they’re doing, and simply tell them once what task you would like them to do and your expectations for the time frame of doing so. Connect before speaking to them because we as both children and adults, are more open to a person’s influence if we feel connected to that person.

Neutral tone. Use a neutral tone of voice, especially when asking the first time. If you have their attention and in a shortened speech manner, ask them to do something, there should be no need for repeating.

Asking rather than giving orders. Giving orders naturally stimulates resistance within a child. Simply try asking them to do a task with all of the above manners applied and see how much better it is received than barking orders at them directly. Assert their power and give them options if they’re available, because choosing helps build their self-esteem as well.

Set up routines for your kids. 

Setting up routines creates less opportunity for power struggles with your child. For example, if there are things that need to be done each morning before leaving for school, create a chore chart. Using a dry erase board or sticker chart, create one that leaves no question for what needs to be done before school. Maybe help them at first, then let them have the responsibility each day. Verbalize your expectations with them, be reasonable and of course make sure they’re age-appropriate tasks so they can also feel successful in completing the chores. Also, just as important, make sure to leave time in the morning for these tasks as rushing the child along will just create tension and frustration.

Don’t overreact. Unless you’ve asked your child several times to do the same task, try to not overreact. Easier said than done sometimes, but it will probably be counterintuitive.

Expect disagreements. We all have the need to be seen and heard. When that need isn’t met, children often stop listening. If your child needs more time than you’re initially willing to give and they start by showcasing some sort of disagreement, at least be willing to listen to their why. Their reasoning may be valid and often seeing it from their perspective is growth for both of you.

Acknowledge and say thank you.

Without question, this one has absolutely always worked for me. I have no problem asking my boys to do something around the house and immediately saying “Thank you, I appreciate it.” It’s always worked because they know I am grateful for their help and therefore more willing to help, even before they’ve started the chore. It’s motivating and rewarding at the same time. Of course it’s even more helpful after the task is completed for me to tell them thank you again, and maybe even a compliment as to what they did right in completion of the chore. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

How and when to ask impacts kids listening.

It’s very frustrating as a parent when you ask your child to do something and they don’t react. You know that they heard you, but don’t acknowledge it. Maybe they’re distracted, maybe they don’t want to hear what you’re saying and are ignoring you, or maybe they didn’t hear you. Which is it? Although I’m not firm on this all of the time, but timing of the ask is somewhat important. Figure out why they’re not listening to you before you maybe react or repeat. Obviously, this doesn’t apply if it’s a timely situation in which we need to get ready or leave for an appointment for example, but if you’re aware of what they’re doing at the moment, then asking them to do something will most likely not be met with resistance.

A few final thoughts as I’m about to go put my own advice into practice and ask the boys to unload the dishwasher and help with the laundry. You don’t need to have full control to create harmony and happiness within the home. Respect each other from day one and each day going forward, knowing the kids will develop their own preferences and personality as the years progress.

Stay calm. Allow them to help around the house from the beginning, even when they’re little, little. Be sensible, realistic and create good time management when asking them to do a task. Depending on the age, time constraints, their safety and health, be willing to compromise at times, not always, but sometimes.


Jodi is a fun-loving mom of two boys, ages 16 and 11, who live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a stay-at-home mom over the years she has taken on the role of renovating just about every space in their home. She enjoys photography, being a brand partner for Young Living essential oils, sports, reading, crafts, exercise, cooking, plants and gardening. Her love language is acts of service and she’s an Enneagram type two, wing three. Follow her on Instagram @jodileigham

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